‘Remarkable’ design engineer apprentice makes mark with £50k-a-year production savings

Assembly efficiencies made by a ‘remarkable’ design engineer during his apprenticeship are now saving his employer £50,000-a-year and slashing product build time by more than 60%, from 3.5 hours down to just one hour

Design engineer Niall Dawson works at Sheffield-based Pryor Marking Technology, which was established in 1849 and is a world leader for design and manufacture of intelligent marking, identification and code reading solutions.

The 21-year-old completed a technical support apprenticeship with the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre this year and says one of his finest hours during that time was being lead design engineer in Pryor’s first wave implementation of dedicated assembly stations for standard products.

Nat Russhard, business improvement manager at Pryor Marking Technology, said Niall is the company’s first technical apprentice and his contribution to the organisation has been ‘truly remarkable’ in many ways.

Nat said: “Niall has shown a flexibility to work across all areas of the business from shop floor to top floor. The practical skills he has picked up from a hands-on approach has helped significantly in providing outstanding cost savings to his re-engineered design of a standard product.”

“He is a very important part of the Pryor organisation. His contribution, delivery and results speak for themselves. He has promoted and demonstrated the merits of the AMRC Training Centre apprenticeship scheme throughout the company.”

The project began with design engineer Niall looking at the assembly time of a standard product that was notoriously difficult to assemble with ‘Right First Time’ yield falling as low as 70%.

Niall said: “When looking at the bill of materials I quickly noticed some high cost parts that seemed very over-engineered for their function. Many colleagues within the fitting department had commented on the product taking multiple attempts to get right and this adds a lot of time on to the build.”

“As well as designing the stations to reduce assembly time, we also looked at the ergonomics of a cell and provided assembly operatives with all the tools and parts required for a job so they didn’t have to spend time locating or fetching parts from the warehouse, reducing overall time and improving efficiency.”

“After a two-year project, the changes are now implemented with results showing a saving of £50,000 a year along with more than a 60% reduction in the time it takes to build each product—the timescale being 3.5 hours down to one hour.”

“It’s still early days but ‘Right First Time’ yield is now back where it should be at 100%. A planned follow up process will take place later this year to check compliance to the standard operating procedure and to study any feedback for further improvements.”

“The skill level now needed to build the machine has also been reduced, opening up opportunities for lower-skilled labour from other areas in the factory to assemble these products. The benefit to the company through this project has been huge and it now means other standard products can be investigated using the same methodology to reduce cost, assembly time and improve quality.”

Niall is fully integrated into the design team at Pryor, working on sales orders and standard product development alongside five other fully qualified designers. He works independently on projects, tapping into the knowledge and experience of the experts around him to develop his core design skills.

He added: “I am at a point now where I can support my own weight in the business.”

Nat agreed: “Through working with casting suppliers, shop floor and purchasing teams, Niall has exceeded all expectations with cost savings totalling £50,000 per year, a reduction in assembly time of more than 60% and developing opportunities to use low-skilled labour through the introduction of standard operating procedures.”

“Niall also has a mature level of confidence and is entirely trusted to visit and represent the Pryor company with major customers such as Rolls-Royce where he has designed, installed and commissioned modifications to a radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking system. To date, Niall is now developing cost estimates and quotations for bespoke customer projects where values can exceed £100,000.”

Nikki Jones, director of the AMRC Training Centre, said Niall is a shining example of the success that can be achieved through apprenticeships and of the benefits employers can reap by taking on an apprentice.

She said: “Niall is an absolute credit to the AMRC Training Centre and to his company. During his apprenticeship, and beyond, he has displayed the right attitude, passion and commitment that companies are crying out for in manufacturing and engineering.”

Pictured: University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre apprentice Niall Dawson, a design engineer at Pryor Marking Technologies whose innovative ideas are saving his company £50,000 a year

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